Blood on the Water (William Monk Series #20)

Blood on the Water (William Monk Series #20)

4.3 10
by Anne Perry

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As her New York Times bestselling novels always remind us, Anne Perry is a matchless guide to both the splendor and the shame of the British Empire at the height of its influence. In her twentieth William Monk mystery, she brings us to London’s grand Mayfair mansions, where the arrogant masters of the Western world hold sway—and to the teeming


As her New York Times bestselling novels always remind us, Anne Perry is a matchless guide to both the splendor and the shame of the British Empire at the height of its influence. In her twentieth William Monk mystery, she brings us to London’s grand Mayfair mansions, where the arrogant masters of the Western world hold sway—and to the teeming Thames waterfront, where one summer afternoon, Monk witnesses the horrifying explosion of the pleasure boat Princess Mary, which sends to their deaths nearly two hundred merrymakers.
The tragedy is no accident. As commander of the River Police, Monk should handle the case, but the investigation is turned over to the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. An Egyptian man is swiftly caught, tried, and sentenced to die. But almost as quickly, Monk presents evidence that Habib Beshara, though a nasty piece of work, was elsewhere at the time of the blast. The investigation, now in complete disarray, is hastily turned over to Monk.
Is the crime connected with the soon-to-be-opened Suez Canal, which will enormously benefit wealthy British shipping companies? Or did all of those innocent people drown to ensure the death of just one? How did the bomber board the ship, and how did he manage to escape? Is he an anarchist or a madman?
Backed up by his astute wife, Hester, and his old reliable friend Oliver Rathbone, Monk vows to find answers—but instead finds himself treading the dangerous waters of international intrigue, his questions politely turned aside by a formidable array of the powerful and privileged. Events twist and turn like the Thames itself, leading to the shattering moment when Monk realizes, perhaps too late, that he is the next target.
Praise for Anne Perry and her William Monk novels
Blood on the Water

“[An] unfailingly rewarding series.”The New York Times Book Review
“Riveting . . . one of Perry’s most engrossing books.”The Washington Times
“Tension-filled . . . intricate and densely plotted . . . Victorian London comes alive.”BookPage

Blind Justice
“Ranks among the best . . . Perry has written. Her courtroom scenes have the realism of Scott Turow.”—Huntington News
A Sunless Sea
“Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries are marvels.”The New York Times Book Review
Acceptable Loss
“Masterful storytelling and moving dialogue.”The Star-Ledger
Execution Dock
“[An] engrossing page-turner . . . There’s no one better at using words to paint a scene and then fill it with sounds and smells than Anne Perry.”The Boston Globe
Dark Assassin
“Brilliant . . . a page-turning thriller . . . blending compelling plotting with superbly realized human emotion and exquisite period detail.”—Jeffery Deaver, author of Edge
The Shifting Tide
“The mysterious and dangerous waterfront world of London’s ‘longest street,’ the Thames, comes to life.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Perry’s 20th William Monk Victorian historical (after 2013’s Blind Justice) opens with a powerful scene. Monk, commander of the Thames River Police, witnesses an explosion aboard a pleasure boat, which rapidly sinks. Despite his heroic efforts to save lives, almost 200 are lost in the tragedy, which the detective quickly concludes wasn’t an accident. To Monk’s dismay, the authorities take the case away from his force and assign it to the London Metropolitan Police. An Egyptian man, Habib Beshara, is charged with planting the bomb that caused the deadly explosion, though his motive is far from clear. Monk has misgivings about Beshara’s guilt, but with the case reassigned and a culprit identified, he can investigate only at risk to his career. The book’s endearing main characters—Monk; his wife, Hester; and their 16-year-old surrogate son, Scuff—help compensate for a mystery with less sociopolitical interest than Perry’s usual. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Anne Perry and her William Monk novels
Blood on the Water

“[An] unfailingly rewarding series.”The New York Times Book Review
“Riveting . . . one of [Anne] Perry’s most engrossing books.”The Washington Times
“Tension-filled . . . intricate and densely plotted . . . Victorian London comes alive.”BookPage

Blind Justice
“Ranks among the best . . . Perry has written. Her courtroom scenes have the realism of Scott Turow.”—Huntington News
A Sunless Sea
“Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries are marvels.”The New York Times Book Review
Acceptable Loss
“Masterful storytelling and moving dialogue.”The Star-Ledger
Execution Dock
“[An] engrossing page-turner . . . There’s no one better at using words to paint a scene and then fill it with sounds and smells than Anne Perry.”The Boston Globe
Dark Assassin
“Brilliant . . . a page-turning thriller . . . blending compelling plotting with superbly realized human emotion and exquisite period detail.”—Jeffery Deaver, author of Edge
The Shifting Tide
“The mysterious and dangerous waterfront world of London’s ‘longest street,’ the Thames, comes to life.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Library Journal
In Perry's 20th Monk mystery, the pleasure boat Princess Mary has exploded along the Thames waterfront at a cost of nearly 200 lives, and Monk is quick to find evidence that the Egyptian man sentenced to death for this outrage could not have been the culprit.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
William Monk Series , #20
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 10.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1

Monk leaned forward, resting on his oar for a moment as he stared across the water at the Pool of London. Ships from every country on earth lay at anchor, riding lights swaying in the dusk wind. The sun was low in the early summer sky and streaks of red flared across the west.

Behind him, at the other oar, Orme rested also. He was a quiet man who had worked on the river all his life.

“Good sight, eh, sir?” he said, his wind-­burned face creased in satisfaction. “I reckon there ain’t none like it in the world.”

Monk smiled. For Orme that was an emotional—­and lengthy—­speech. “I think you’re right,” he agreed.

In unison they bent to their oars again. There was a pleasure boat a hundred yards or so in front of them, and they could hear the music and the laughter echoing from the lantern-­strung decks, even from this distance. The boat had probably been out most of the day, perhaps as far as Gravesend on the estuary. It was perfect weather for it.

Some young men were playing around, mock fighting—­too close to the rail, Monk thought. They ought to be more careful. The Thames current was deceptively swift, and the water filthy.

A few other small boats dotted the water close by, one within yards of the pleasure boat.

Monk frowned as a man on the deck shouted loudly and waved his arms, running towards the railing as if he would jump over it.

Then suddenly there was a shattering roar and a great gout of flame leaped from the bow. Debris shot high into the air and the column of light seared Monk’s eyes. Instinctively he ducked as the shock wave struck, and pieces of wood and metal pelted into the water around him and Orme with deafening splashes. As one, they grasped the oars and fought to steady the boat in the turbulence that washed out from the stricken vessel.

There seemed to be bodies everywhere, people thrashing in the water, shouting above the din.

Monk was speechless, his chest almost too tight to draw breath. Without a word, he and Orme dug the oars in deep to race into the nightmare, shoulders bent, muscles straining, oblivious of everything but the horror.

Even as they rowed, the gaping hole in what was left of the bow was swallowed in water; and, huge paddles still turning, the boat plunged beneath the surface.

Within minutes they reached the first body: a man floating face up, eyes wide and sightless. They tried to lift him before realizing that both his legs were gone, bloody stumps half obscured in the filth of the river. He was beyond their help. Monk’s stomach clenched as he let the corpse fall back into the water.

The second victim they found was a woman, her huge skirts already sodden and dragging her down. It took all Monk’s strength to heave her aboard and Orme’s very considerable skill to keep the boat steady. She was barely conscious, but there were too many others sinking fast to take the time to revive her. All they could do was put her as gently as possible face downward so the water she spewed did not drown her.

They worked in perfect synchronization, bending, lifting, keeping the boat from capsizing as it swung and tipped with their movement, and the clutching of desperate hands as white faces upturned in the gloom. It seemed few in the water could swim, and those who could were losing strength fast. Monk reached for one swimmer and felt fingers like iron digging into his flesh as he heaved him aboard.

He and Orme were both soaked to the skin, muscles aching, arms bruised. Monk’s heart beat in his throat as if it would choke him. He could not do enough, not nearly enough.

It was only minutes after the explosion when the last of the boat slid into the dark river and disappeared. There was nothing left but the cries, the debris, and the bodies—­some motionless, some still fighting to stay above the water.

Other boats were coming. A ferry was less than forty feet away. As it swung around and the men reached over to pull people from the water, the fading sunlight momentarily illuminated a picture and a name painted on the stern. A barge was making its way slowly, dragged against the current as it came closer. The bargee was bending and reaching out to help those closest to him. A small coal freighter was flinging barrels and scrap wood overboard; anything that anyone in the water could clutch on to to help them float before their imprisoning clothes dragged them, still screaming, under.

Monk and Orme had heaved six exhausted people out of the water, but that was all they dared carry. Sick with misery, they had to beat off others whose weight would have sunk the boat. Monk had to forcibly push one man away from the gunwales with the blade of his oar, afraid that he would overturn the boat in his frantic attempt to climb aboard.

They pulled for the shore, hearing the repeated thanks of the survivors who were huddled together, trying to assist one another in the body of the boat, holding up those barely conscious. Men on the banks were wading as far as they could, roped together, stretching out to lift and help.

Monk and Orme went back out again into the near darkness, directed now as much by cries as by sight. They pulled several more people out of the water, and rowed them ashore.

Monk lost all track of time. He was wet to the skin and so cold he was shaking, yet he and Orme could not give up. If there was even one person still alive in that black water, then they must find him or her.

It seemed every man in the River Police was here with them, and all manner of others joined in, united in their horror and grief. The banks were lined with people offering aid. Some pushed mugs of hot tea and whisky into freezing hands, helping the rescued to hold on and drink. Others had blankets; some even had their own spare, dry clothes.

The moon was high in the sky when Monk and Orme finally moored the boat and climbed wearily up the steps from the river to the level dockside, acknowledging in a glance that they had done all they could. The wind had risen and scythed across the open stretch in front of the Wapping Police Station, which was their headquarters.

Monk hunched into his coat instinctively but it was pointless when everything he wore was soaking wet. He increased his pace. Weary as he was, the cold was worse. He could hardly feel his feet and all his bones ached. The palms of his hands were blistered so he could barely move them.

He reached the door with Orme a step behind him. Inside, the woodstove was lit. The air was blessedly warm.

Sergeant Jackson came bustling toward them immediately, attending to Monk first, as rank demanded.

“You’d better get them clothes off, sir. We got plenty o’ dry ones in the cupboard. Not your taste, sir, bein’ a bit of a dandy like you are. But dry’s all that matters now, or you’ll catch your death. Beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but you look like hell!”

Monk was shaking so hard his teeth were chattering and it was beyond his control to stop. “I thought hell was supposed to be hot!” he said with an attempt at a smile.

“No, sir, cold an’ wet. Ask any seaman, ’e’ll tell you,” Jackson replied. He turned to Orme. “You too, Mr. Orme. You don’t look no better. When you come out I’ll ’ave an ’ot mug o’ tea for yer wi’ a good dash o’ whisky in it.”

“A very good dash, if you please,” Monk added. He wanted the fire of it to take the edge off the horror inside him, the pity and guilt he felt for those he had not saved. He sat down and let the warmth of the fire wrap around him like a blanket, for a moment obliterating everything else.

Jackson did not say anything, but bustled about preparing the tea. He had spent all his life on the river, like Orme. He had seen other tragedies before, but nothing like this. He had been there all evening organizing men and boats, and answering desperate questions as well as he could.

Twenty minutes later, skin toweled hard enough to hurt, in clean, dry clothes, but still conscious of the stench of the river on his skin and in his hair, Monk sat near the stove and sipped his tea. It was piping hot, and at least half whisky. Orme was in the chair beside him, and Jackson was fussing over the next men to come in.

“That explosion,” Orme said grimly, pulling a face as the tea burned his mouth, “couldn’t have been the boiler. The explosion came from the bow, nowhere near the engines. So what the devil was it?”

“Can’t see any other way it could’ve been an accident,” Monk said. “That only leaves sabotage.”

Orme scowled. “Why, sir? What kind of a madman would blow up a pleasure boat? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Monk thought about it for several moments. He was exhausted. Few ideas made sense. Why would anyone intentionally sink a pleasure boat? There was no cargo to steal or destroy, only people to kill. Was it an enmity against the owners of the boat? A business rivalry or vendetta? Or perhaps a grudge against some guests on the boat? Was it political? Or even an act of war by some insane foreign power or a group of anarchists?

“I don’t know yet. Perhaps someone who hates Britain,” Monk said finally. “There are a few of those.” He finished the last of his tea and stood up, stumbling a little but quickly regaining his balance.

The door swung open and Hooper came in. He was a tall, loose-­limbed man and was shedding water with every step. His face was haggard with grief. He didn’t say a word, but folded himself up into one of the chairs as Jackson stood up to fetch him tea.

“We’d better go and speak to the survivors,” Monk said quietly to Orme. “Somebody must have seen something. Big question is—­did whoever did it escape, or did they intend to go down with the boat?” He put his hand on Hooper’s shoulder for a moment. Words between them were unnecessary.

Orme set his mug down. “God help us, we really are talking about madness, aren’t we?”

Monk did not bother to answer. He walked out into the night, his face cold again after the warmth of the room. In the clear sky moonlight spread a silver path across the river and the dark debris floating on its surface. He shivered at the thought that the boats still out there were only picking up bodies now, although most of the dead would be trapped in the wreck, settling into mud on the riverbed.

As he moved across the open space toward the dockside he thought of what he must do, and dreaded it. But it was inescapably his job. He was Commander of the Thames River Police. Any crime on the river was his responsibility, and this was the worst incident in living memory. There must have been the best part of two hundred people on the boat. The bereaved would be numerous. At the moment the whole tragedy seemed chaotic, senseless. Where could he begin?

Coleman, one of his own men, approached him in the dark. Monk could hardly see his face, but his voice when he spoke was rough-­edged, only just in control.

“Looks like we saved about fifty, sir. Got most of them here on the north bank.” He coughed, his throat tight. “Put ’em anywhere we can. You could start with that warehouse over there, Stillman’s. A lot of survivors there and they’re making room for more, if there are any. All sorts ’ave come with blankets, clothes, tea, whisky, anything that can help.” He coughed again. “Got half a dozen sent to hospital, too, but I can’t see how they’ll make it. That water’s like to poison you even if you don’t drown in it.”

“Thank you, Coleman.” Monk nodded and walked on. The warehouse was close. He needed to put his emotions aside and concentrate on the questions he had to ask and the answers he needed to know to begin to make sense of this.

He picked his way between the boxes, kegs, and bales outside in the warehouse yard. He went up the step to the cracks of light he could see around the door.

Inside, the warehouse was lit by bull’s-­eye lanterns, and there were a dozen or so people lying on the floor wrapped in blankets. Several women were ministering to them with hot drinks and towels, in some cases rubbing their arms and legs, all the time talking to them gently. Only a few glanced up at Monk’s entry. He did not look like a policeman; he was exhausted, unshaven, and dressed in ill-­fitting waterman’s clothes.

“My name is Monk,” he introduced himself to a woman carrying towels and bandages. “River Police. We need to find out what happened. Which of these people can I speak to?” he asked.

“Does it have to be now?” the woman said sharply. Her face was gray with fatigue, eyes red-­rimmed. There were stains of dirt and blood down the front of her dress.

“Yes,” he said quietly. “Before they forget.”

Another, older, woman rose to her feet from where she had been helping a man sip a hot drink. She was strongly built, her clothes so worn they were faded in patches where the pattern had been rubbed off the cloth. In the yellow light of the lantern her face suggested not only weariness but disgust.

“It’s unlikely they’ll forget!” she said between her teeth. “They will probably relive it the rest of their lives!”

“None of us will forget the horror,” Monk answered her quietly. “But it wasn’t an accident. I need to know who did this, and for that I need details only they can provide.”

“Find whoever built the damn boat!” she retorted bitterly, turning away from him and towards a man cradling a broken arm.

Monk put his hand on her arm, holding her firmly. He felt her tense and then pull against him. “It was an explosion,” he said between his teeth. “The whole bow blew out; there was a hole in it you could drive a coach and four through.”

She turned back to him, her eyes wide. “Who told you that?”

Meet the Author

Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Blind Justice and A Sunless Sea, the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Death on Blackheath and Midnight at Marble Arch. She is also the author of a series of five World War I novels, as well as eleven holiday novels, most recently A New York Christmas, and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk, set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Scotland and Los Angeles.

Brief Biography

Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
Date of Birth:
October 28, 1938
Place of Birth:
Blackheath, London England

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Blood on the Water 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
mcmullin More than 1 year ago
The reader will not guess the outcome. Anne Perry, as usual, keeps her readers on the edge of their seats right up to the last minute. Her books are worth every penny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Blood on the Water keeps the reader engaged and is filled with red herrings. The climax is an utterly complete surprise and yet is plausible. If you're a fan of Anne Perry, get this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a good read as usual. love the continuing development of the characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mayor More than 1 year ago
She manages to keep you wanting more each time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Anne Perry and have read all of her books. I always wait impatiently for each new book that comes out; this one no exception. I was really surprised how slow and boring this Monk novel was. I am very disappointed that this book lacked the spark that I love about Monk, Hester, and Rathbone. The book starts with a bang, but goes on for too many pages with Monk being unable to get involved with the crime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
I finished this novel yesterday, but wish I had more to read. The story twisted and turned, but as in all the Monk series, the combined efforts of Hester, Monk, and Rathbone find the means to save the day. This story floats on the sinking of a pleasure boat on the Thames in England. The police catch and convict a suspect, but a motive never surfaces. Anne Perry does a wonderful job with the description of the setting and the characters and the language used by each class of people. The nuances of class bob in the muddy waters of deceit and greed. The ending gushes to the discovery of the killer and the motive. Touché.
Sophia-Rose1 More than 1 year ago
Began with a bang and went out the same way! I was startled breathless both times too since the plot developed at a much slower pace much of the book. The book is full of all that makes for a gritty, dark tale of murder and conspiracy against the public's outcry of fear and a lust for vengeance. It delights in the unexpected. Just when the reader thinks they have things figured out, a twist occurs and, no, reader is way out. This author has been a go to comfort for over two decades now and it was with true pleasure that I reached for the twentieth book in this historical mystery series set in the mid-Victorian era with the primary characters being a husband and wife detective team along with a surrounding cast of equally engaging characters. Some series go flat or start to lose any form of innovation to the stories, but I have not found that to be the case here. This is a series that really should be started with the beginning and read on through as the main characters' stories run right alongside the individual cases they solve in each book with strands from some of these cases leading into the next story whether it be Monk and Hester's detecting or Oliver taking over the case in court. This particular story begins with a horrific explosion and the deaths of nearly two hundred people. Monk and Orme are there along with many from the Thames River Police and begin to start sorting out the nightmare when inexplicably they are pulled off the case and it is given to the Metropolitan Police even though it happened on the water. Public outcry is strong in the face of such a marked attack on people engaged in an innocent activity. Those taken in the explosion were representative of both ordinary people, but some related to powerful, influential people. The pressure is strong for a swift action and in the process the investigation isn't as thorough as it should have been. Monk and his men are forced to watch helplessly as things are not handled well though a suspect, possibly scapegoat, is taken into custody and brought to trial. After the sentencing, it is Monk who stumbles on the convicted man's unbreakable alibi and things come full circle. The investigation is re-opened and put back into the hands of Monk and his men with the pressure escalated now that their are news posts and talks of conspiracy and corruption in the government, police and courts added to it all. Does it have to do with the negotiations for the Suez Canal in Egypt? Is it an act of hate against the British Empire? Or is it something else? Monk has the job of untangling it all and giving the prosecutor something unbreakable and true. Hester makes her own investigative plans to help her husband knowing the pressure he is under and the danger he faces as the clues lead to powerful conspirators being involved. But she is not alone as their adoptive son falls back on his beginnings to scour the banks of the river through those that scratch out a living there to help arrive at a solution. As they all work separately, Monk learns the killer isn't afraid to kill again to protect himself and William Monk is the new threat as his investigations bring him closer and closer to the right answer. Will he find the answers and get them into Oliver and the prosecutor's hands before the killer gets him or his loved ones first? This particular story just like many others in the author's repertoire has a universality to it. I say that because even though the plot is set in Victorian times, the issues are true of our times as well. The society, dress, activities and speech may be a bit antiquated, but the motives, emotions and thinking could be any time or place. Speaking of the historical side, the author truly does have a strong, authoritative grasp on the life and times of that period. The description doesn't take over the story line, but it is there adding just another well-written layer to enjoy. The suspense and mystery are strong and twisting so that the reader can never quite be sure that the solution is in hand. The plot slowly (very slowly so be patient) builds adding clue upon clue as William Monk, his wife Hester, his adopted son Scuff and his men search out each witness and suspect. Oliver Rathbone wasn't in this one from the beginning, but he does join in when the drama heads to the courtroom and even he has an investigative role to play as court corruption is suspected. He is still temporarily disbarred from representing the law or defending a client, but he is called in to consult. Those courtroom scenes were quietly intense as it became a race to see if time would run out before the prosecution provided a strong enough case for conviction and if Oliver could nose out what was going on with those that participated in the previous trial that went so wrong. As to the characters and the human side of things, I once again enjoyed William and Hester detecting together. The cases are dark and gritty, but the human element represented by the main characters are warm and bright spots that keep the dread and shivers caused by the murder and evil away. They worked separately for the most part and shared the majority of the narration with a few times given over to Scuff or Oliver. The tension and heat between them that was present in the early stories has mellowed, but the detecting fire and love is still there. I love how the author has a gift of delving deep into her characters exposing more about them with each new story including more about this couple's relationship with each other and those around them. They have slipped into the roles of a long married couple, but that takes nothing away from their fire and zeal for justice and for each other. After Rathbone had gone, Monk and Hester sat up long into the night talking. No matter how heavy the problem or how tangled, there were ways in which these were Monk's happiest times. There was a deep pleasure, a peace of the soul, in sharing even the most desperate battles with a woman he loved with whom he shared not just passion, but an abiding friendship. Loc 65% William Monk, Blood on the Water Other characters have strong secondary story lines too. Oliver recently ended things with his wife and it is hard to see him coming to grip with all that went before to bring it to that, but I love the new Oliver that came out of it. And Scuff, he is growing up and flourishing under William and Hester's loving care. He is contributing more and more to their cases and I think this was the first time he verbally acknowledged William as his dad. There are a few things that I felt were a tad rushed or under-explained, but nothing that caused me real trouble. Part of it was probably intentional to keep me guessing to the end, but not all of it. It's possible that some of it will carry over into new stories too. Again, it wasn't stuff that affected the main plot or outcome when that is finally teased out. So, in the end, I was left with an exciting, emotional, and engaging (and yes, the alliterative juices are flowing) mystery that I couldn't put down many times. I would recommend this book/series to those who enjoy strongly authentic slow to build historical mysteries that are stronger on the mystery side and solved by a husband and wife- led detective team full of deep character development and mild romance. My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leader application form: <p> Name: <p> Age: <p> Rank: <p> Appearance: <p> Small history story: <p> Experience: <p> Activeness level(1-10): <p> Anything else: <p> <p> okay fill that out......well try to get most. You can throw in a few things if u want